The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Surrogates (2009)

The new Bruce Willis picture "Surrogates" is a smashingly good "B" science fiction movie. It isn't perfect: there is actually about enough story for a Perfect episode of "The Outer Limits" and in feature form, drags just a little. There is also the problem with certain social elements...but I was able to suspend disbelief long enough to have a great time.

The basic premise: that in a near-future most human beings now stay home and travel outside their homes only through "Surrogate" robots that (mostly) look like them, only perfectly aerobicized and younger and better dressed. Tananarive said it was the best excuse for a Hollywood world of perfectly pretty people she'd ever seen. The attraction is the ability to live without fear of violence, disease, or wrinkles. Looks like fun...until someone comes up with a way to kill an "Operator" by killing the Surrogate. And then, as they say, the fun begins.

Bruce Willis plays an FBI agent assigned to solve the murder. He hates Surrogacy, and wishes his wife would unplug herself and meet him in the flesh. The movie never loses sight of its human dimension, and if I'm not overwhelmed with its dialogue, and it feels that they were two eager to pull your attention away from some pressing questions, I still had more fun with it, as an SF movie, than anything I've seen in a long time. Even Star Trek wasn't a great SF was a great Star Trek film, which ain't exactly the same thing.


Exactly how expensive are these Surrogates? In the world of this film, it seems that there is no poverty save voluntary poverty (for those Luddites who refuse to use Surrogates), so...I'm just not clear on how many days of work it takes the average person to purchase such a cutting-edge tool. Hell, not everyone can afford an iPhone. Or a bicycle. So...let's assume that this is an incredibly wealthy world, and that Surrogates cost about as much as a decent used car? That's about as far as I can go.

But even if the vast majority use them sometime, it is also clear that cheaper models don't get full sensory range. So what about the poorer folks: they never leave their apartments? No one who can only afford "Surries" with sight and hearing wants to go out and see a movie with friends? Eat a hot dog on the beach? There is no sign of anyone on the street except perfect people. Yeah, there are plenty of people who would be happy to stay home and hooked up...but also plenty of people who couldn't afford top of the line models, and would want to have real sex, eat food in public, walk the boulevard. You don't see ANY of these people, and I don't believe it. I understand why: it wouldn't have made as cool a movie. And for ninety minutes I can ignore the voices that say: "technology this powerful this cheap? What does it imply about the rest of the world..?"

Because that would ruin the movie. Which is really great fun. I'd give it a very solid "B" and recommend it with only tiny reservations.


And, of course, the downside to something like Facebook" getting bad news you wouldn't have otherwise heard. There was a fun, lovely lady I knew some years back, incredibly vivacious and always impeccably dressed. I saw her name on Facebook and put in a friend request, hoping that this was the same lady I had known. It was. Unfortunately, when the response came it was from her husband with the news that she had died of a stroke last year. Damn, damn, damn. That actually bummed me yesterday, a day when I otherwise would have been celebrating: we sent off FROM CAPE TOWN WITH LOVE, and think it really smokes.

But my friend. Her poor husband is in an emotional tailspin and is afraid he might never emerge. Life is tough...I want to say something that is no fun to say at all. When I look over my acquaintances, friends and family who have died young, a totally disproportionate number of them have been overweight. Please, people...take better care of yourselves. Love yourself a little more. Find other ways to feel safe. Please.


A question was asked about collaborations. When it comes to Tennyson, all basic plot aspects are discussed thoroughly with Tananarive. Then we run it all past Blair. He has tons of input into Hollywood history, Tennyson's psychology, and other aspects. Tananarive and I rework the outline, flesh it out, and then Tananarive begins to write a first draft, in the "Buzzword" online editor which makes it possible to . I follow along behind, reworking, researching, keeping her on track. This is no joke: when you are right up against the tree, it can be hard to see the forest. There are aspects of the story or story world that are more mine, and others that are more hers. I rewrite her text, she re-writes my re-writing, and so it goes. Blair gets chunks of the books along the way, and provides input and critique. There have also been a couple of very special advisors on certain aspects of the book, people who would rather not have their names associated publicly, for reasons of their own.

Technically, FROM CAPE TOWN WITH LOVE was finished week before last, and then we cut it into two chunks on BUZZWORD and just dove it with magnifying glasses. That meant morning to night we're both in the manuscript, swapping chunks and fighting over details, themes, psychology, dialog and whatever else we haven't agreed on totally. In every collaboration, someone has to have the final word in case of an unreconcilable disagreement. In this case, T has final say. Broadly, I create structure and story, she executes first draft, and we both work like hell on everything, trying to create a character who is tough enough to survive genuine peril, but with a very vulnerable heart beneath the skills and muscle. So far, we seem to have walked that line well. I honestly believe CAPETOWN to be the best of the three. The added espionage element is just more fun than I could believe.

In a very real way, the TENNYSON books are the movies I wish I could see on the big screen. It is possible that such films might have been successfully made as long as ten years ago, but I can't blame Hollywood for being gun-shy. I certainly think that they could be successful now, if the right combination of vision and talent can come together. SOMEONE is going to create such films, such images, and reap success. I'd love for it to be me, but would be ALMOST as happy to simply put my money down, munch popcorn, and enjoy the show.


What images would you guys like to see onscreen that you haven't seen (or rarely see)? Why do you think you haven't seen it?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What Created Tyler Perry?

Ah! I've found another way to illustrate what I'm saying about an "unequal playing field" using movies to do it. I talked about sexuality, but it isn't even necessary to go there in order to show how black faces kill box office. Whites can often be fooled by a black face on the poster. They don't consider that most of the boxoffice blockbusters with Will Smith or whoever are actually white films with a single black person at the lead. Because this is psychologically, the baseline of reality ("people" are white. Then there are "black people", "Chinese people", "Mexican people" etc., in much the same way that "flesh" colored crayons or bandages are colored for white people. They are the reference--everything else is a modification) you don't even notice. Why not, I thought, define a "black" film as a film where six out of the top ten actors in the film are black. Fair? So go to IMDB ( and take a peek.

I probably missed a couple of movies, but at a quick glimpse, what you'll see is that of the 437 films that have crossed the 100 million mark, only a little over 1% of them have non-white casts. Now, this means ANY kind of non-whites. What you'll see is that you have to go TWO HUNDRED movies down the list to find one in which the entire world doesn't revolve around white people and their concerns, with more than a token face out in front. And what is the most successful film ever? Eddie Murphy's "Dr. Doolittle", earning 144,156,000. Followed by Coming To America (#263), Big Mama's House (#318), Dr. Doolittle 2 (#343), and Dreamgirls (#395). Get down below a 100 mill, and you see tons of movies with non-white casts. Go ahead: keep trying to believe that "it's just Hollywood". This is America voting with its dollars.

People want to see the world revolving around them. This is why Tyler Perry has become the most successful black filmmaker in history. He is playing to the lowest common denominator in order to have a safety net for his films. And considering the talented casts he has been able to attract, be careful how you sneer. He knows EXACTLY the game he's playing: creating a pattern of success that others will be able to build upon. Looking down on Madea is a lot like looking at tattered ghetto neighborhoods and wondering why "those" people like living that way.


Ooh. A "Facebook" poll asking "Should Obama Be Killed." So glad that the venom is no higher than it has been in the past, and that there is no racial component. This is filth, the flat rocks that got turned over when the Unthinkable happened. Of course, it's all about his policies. Of course. I will state this clearly: anyone who is in denial about this part of our current national discourse is just asleep. And your sleep is enabling one of the ugliest waves of hate I have experienced in my lifetime. And you invalidate the legitimate arguments with, say, UHC because you have not called out the racists waving signs at your side.


Hot DAMN I love having a partner like T. We're working on the new Tennyson, turning it in tomorrow. Have the book divided into two chunks on Buzzword, which allows us to swap back and forth effortlessly, and even work on the same file at the same time (to a more limited degree).

This creates a fascinating situation where either of us can sign onto one of the desktop or laptop computers, anywhere in the house (or the world) and work. If I don't see a red warning saying she is EDITING, I can just jump in and write. If I have to put a note on the chunk she's working on, I can do that with ease--I just can't get in and change the text until she saves. This is great, because everytime I go in I see new text, new changes, unexpected stuff. It's almost like having elves.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Facebook Healings

In a relationship, each partner has to work to understand the language of their partner. Two people can have the same intent, but have different definitions and charges to words and behavior: note our current argument about health care. I think that the majority of each side wants the minimum number of people to die due to poor or absent care. The disagreement about how this can be achieved, how much of our communal resources should be allotted to this, and the role of government in this is being debated fiercely, and not always honestly...and this shows the depth of feeling involved.

How much more so in the struggles within our daily lives? The classic instance is the man who works day and night to provide security and safety for his family. By his definition, this is love. While the wife wants to HEAR HIM SAY IT. By her definition, anything else is just noise. So two people can actually love each other dearly, but be incapable of making genuine connection. It can be tragic. Emails I've gotten from people on both sides of the UHC debate suggest that the intents are largely the same--but the preferred methodology varies greatly. There are, of course, freeloaders on one side and selfish bastards on the other, and partisans on both who just want to win for the sake of winning. And many in the middle who are afraid of the status quo, or of change. And this is where the lack of effective dialogue is tragic.


Over the last couple of years, I've noticed that my past is catching up with me. Or I'm passing up with it. I'm encountering friends, lovers, old teachers from my 20's, people with whom I had broken communication or fouled heart-lines. And that stuff is slowly, surely getting disentangled. My very first girlfriend found me on Facebook. And we've been able to talk about those days, and what we both did right and wrong together. Damned if that isn't useful, a glimpse into my process, and a prediction of future issues.

Have any of you ever had a conversation with an old flame that helped you understand your current relationships?


So Roman Polanski finally got arrested. I can't wait to hear his lawyers claim that thirty years of exile is as bad as incarceration, and that he should therefore be pardoned. What a crock. Thirty years of champagne, getting laid by women, jetting around to the greatest cities in Europe, making movies, laughing with friends...the inability to come to America simply doesn't strike me as the worst punishment in the world.

And the former victim pleads for clemancy? Probably because she was an active partner, yeah. But society says she she doesn't have the right to decide that. And her current opinion is irrelevant: he would be incarcerated to protect OTHER children, not her. And not to "teach Polanski a lesson." Nope. Right now he's the very poster child for how to break the law and get away with it, in plain sight. I've met too many girls who had sex inappropriately young, and it seems to me that a disproportionate percentage of them were seriously screwed up emotionally, and had real relationship issues later.

Some people say, "well, this isn't fair! If she had been a boy, and Polanski had been a famous female director, no one would do anything but give him a Thumbs Up." Well, that's not true, while it is true that FEWER people would complain. And that gets down to a question of whether it is legitimate to consider boys and girls to have different needs for protection. You know my side of this: I find it impossible to believe that females, who must put a gigantic investment of time and energy for every child, would not be wired up to process sexual data differently from males, who, in comparison, invest a fraction. Nature would be indescriminate indeed if males and females reacted to sex the same. I know of no society, anywhere in the world, at any period of time, in which females were expected to be more sexually experienced than males. So, yeah, we tend to grin if a 16 year old boy has sex with the sexy housewife or teacher. And grimace if the 16 year old baby sitter has sex with the hunky husband or swim coach. It isn't "fair", but it isn't unfair, either. Just protecting the species, to me.


It is tendencies like this that blossom into full-blown social restrictions, reinforced by the power players of both genders. As I've said, men manipulate women with fear, women manipulate men with guilt, and the war goes on. Most men and women love the opposite gender, but there are genuine haters out there, and they queer the deal the same way the serious political partisans do--especially when they lie and hide their venom behind mainstream political rhetoric.

Racially, it cracks me up when someone talks about racism, and their political opponents will squeal: "Oh! So you're saying America is a racist nation?" And then go off into all the things America has done to heal this divide.

It is so absurd for people to use this ploy. Worse is: "Oh, so you're saying white people are evil racists?" To me, the person asking this question is in real danger of actually being that thing. Why? Because it doesn't seem to occur to any of them that the problem is in a human tendency. Their natural assumption is that people MUST mean that whites are actually worse. Or, even if someone says that, that that is the issue to be debated: Are blacks or whites more racist? Because that's the way they think: it HAS to be one or the other. Either white people are the best, or the worst. It can't be that human beings are wired up that way, and we have to be conscious to prevent these tendencies from poisoning our lives. Any more that it could be true that men and women are each wired to think that THEIR view of life, relationships, or whatever is the "right" one, and that the other gender is somehow defective. Or that it is natural, and healthy, for countries to consider themselves Great. Those who believe in American Exceptionalism are participating in a great human past-time. As long as they grant that EVERYONE feels this way about their countries, they get the joke, and it's all in good, serious fun. But the minute you think "I feel this way! And if you don't agree you're a fool or a knave"--you are part of the problem, rather than the solution.

Insofar as racism: I think we are programmed to feel more comfortable with "our own" and the fastest distinction is race or gender. Experience, programming or deep self reflection can change this, but I think it lingers. And those slight tendencies, multiplied across population or power inequities can create horrific effects, especially when good people turn a blind eye to the excesses of their lunatic fringe...which has happened in national, racial, and gender politics to a nauseating degree.

It can be combatted, but I think the easiest way to combat it is to have friends of the "other" group. Do I have Conservative friends with whom I have polite disagreement? Do I privately think they are crazy for having different opinions?

Do I have female friends with whom I can discuss relationships and gender issues? Do I privately think they're crazy for having different opinions? How about different thought patterns? Tananarive, for instance, has a trait I've seen far more frequently among women than men: she talks in suspensive sentences, postponing the object for clause after clause, and sometimes sentence after sentence, as if working from the outside in. It drives me crazy, but it used to drive me crazier. Now I just see it as a difference, and accept it. It still irritates me, but I just shake my head and realize that some of my communication styles must be equally bothersome to her.

Do I have white friends with whom I discuss history, and race relations, and psychological theory regarding blacks and whites in America? You betcha, and it's enriched my life immeasureably. And if I found myself considering some of their attitudes unconsciously racist ("those people in the inner city must love living in squalor." "The crime statistics speak for themselves" That's great, but unless they also take the position that the social structures were damaged by racism, it got REALLY easy to corner them into admitting that they think that innate differences are responsible for these problems. It's actually fun to corner them, and to watch their faces as they realize I understand what they are really saying. And they are so surprised that, deep down, I don't agree. I, of course, am a different breed, and their acceptance of me is proof they aren't racists. Of course. What fun.

This is a fight we have to continue. Having friends in your circle who differ with you while still holding your respect are critical in keeping yourself from falling into the very oldest Primate trap: we rule, you drool, now stand there while I fling poo from the top of the tree. And pretend I did nothing at all.

Friday, September 25, 2009


The above is a terrific little video essay on racism in gaming, especially the "Resident Evil 4" game, which I'd heard so much about...and then found about as loathsome as anything I'd ever seen on a gaming console. I think there is growing awareness of something that has been a point of denial for decades. And that's a good thing.


"Think And Grow Rich" makes much use of the principle of auto-suggestion. Napoleon Hill suggests that you write out your goal, its time for accomplishment, and what you intend to give in exchange for your incoming money. This is critical, of course--too many people say they want riches, but have no idea what they are going to offer that is worthy of extraordinary reward.

He wants you to read your statement aloud morning and night, with passion. It is interesting that from Psycho-Cybernetics through Tony Robbins, there really hasn't been any change, except perhaps in specific technologies to engrave the goals deep in your mind. Neuro Linguistic Programming certainly has powerful effects, and the specificity of visualization, sound, kinesthetics, etc. is definitely a refinement on "reading the goals twice a day." But it's the same idea.

Now, considering that this book has been in constant publication for almost a hundred years, I would take a very close look at this.

1) Every morning remind yourself what your chief aim in life is. And then work to align your behaviors and attitudes with this goal.

2) Every night, you remind your unconscious what you wish to accomplish, so that your dreaming mind can work on it as you sleep.

3) EMOTIONALIZE your goals. FEEL as you read them...or visualize them. Information alone will not help. You are not controlled by your intellect, but rather by your emotions. Use this.

4) Specificity. It is vital to have a clear idea of what you wish to accomplish.

5) WRITE IT DOWN. This is terrifying to people who aren't ready to change. A written goal is half-way between a dream and a reality.

There is more, really so much more. This is why I say that if you haven't read TAGR five times, you haven't read it at all.


I guess I'm not sure all incest is rape (although I have no problem considering it to be damaging, sick, and really gross. Ew!) because it cheapens the concept. If an adult woman seduces her father, was she raped? Really? How about an adult man seducing his mother? Really? I just can't quite go removes volition, and infantalizes people. Adults should be able to take responsibility for their decisions, even if they are loathsome.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sitting On Daddy's Lap

The hideous McKenzie Phillips incest revelation started a debate in the blogosphere about whether or not parent-child incest is always rape. My thought is that it is always just about the sickest thing in the world, a violation of every imaginable social rule in 99.9% of the world's societies through most of time. Children enter the world so damned helpless, and need desperately to bond to their parents, the source of love, food, shelter, education, and so much more. There is just no way that that bond, once formed, could possibly be expected to magically transform into a mature, non-abusive sexual relationship. And what if the parent didn't raise the child? And neither of them wish to have children? Separate from the genetic component (tribes encourage exogamy to provide genetic variation) there is the question of social good. In other words, I wouldn't doubt that there might be some extraordinary circumstances in which such relationships are not evil. But creating a context in which they are accepted opens the door to an abuse potential in other relationships that is simply not worth even considering changing our social attitudes.

Can an adult woman make the decision to have sex with her father? Well, obviously. And what should we think about it? The only safe conclusion, if we wish to protect the little girls who are looking at their Daddies as god-creatures and wish desperately to please no. Can an adult man make the decision to have sex with his mother? Well, obviously. But again, in whatever grotesquely rarified atmosphere such unions would be considered "healthy", the door has opened to an horrific violation of the basic protections of children. I see no way that it could ever be in a society's interests to do other than look upon such relationships as ghastly.

And looking at McKenzie Phillips' sad life, I'd say that she isn't exactly a poster child for the health of incestuous relationships. I think that, in the abstract, most parents find their children sexually attractive. After all, they exemplify (hopefully) the best qualities of you and the person you fell in love with. They are younger versions of you, and when they ask "Am I pretty?" "Am I handsome?" the only real way to answer that honestly is to ask whether you yourself would find them attractive, were they not your children. I remember the first time I watched Nicki and some of her five-year-old girlfriends dancing around my living room in their underwear. It reminded me of a bunch of Sorority girls partying, in, ahem, an incident back at college. Cough. And I saw how child molesters can use the "she was a seductive little girl" excuse. They ARE seductive. They need our approval to a depth of emotion probably beyond the conscious access of adults. We just don't remember that level of need, hope, love. Little kids jump on your lap and wiggle in a way that would be blatantly seductive in an older person. That energy is just there, and it's there from the beginning.

Mistaking it for something to be used for your pleasure is transforming a living, breathing human being into an instrument of your pleasure. In no way, by no definition, under no circumstance do those children NEED you to "play" with them in such a manner. There is simply no circumstance, and whatever justifications Phillips' father used are beneath contempt.

Rape it may not be, by the ordinary definitions. But it is a betrayal of trust so profound that I have difficulty typing these words.


Let me make it clear why I find any argument about smoking, obesity, or whatever to be an argument FOR UHC rather than against it.

What have I said from the beginning? That behaviors are the result of emotions, beliefs, positive and negative emotional anchors. "Timeline" theory is an extraordinarily elegant view of the action process, a way of seeing if you have aligned yourself to accomplish a given goal.

1) Is the goal clear? Meaningful to you? Time-bound?

2) Does your goal match your hierarchy of values? Does it represent a conflict on any level? For instance, intimacy versus freedom is a core conflict that causes infidelity every damn day of the week.

3) Do your beliefs conflict with the desired goal?

4) Do you have negative emotional associations with any of the actions necessary to accomplish your goal?

If all of these things are aligned, you can consider yourself to have the best possible chance to reach your dreams. Problems in any of these arenas should be cleared up.

Let's add another one: in drug rehab school programs, the big problem I see is that they lie. And I think they lie because the programs are created by people who drink and feel guilty about it. They can't tell the truth about an associated problem (drugs) without touching their own damaged wiring. What is the truth? That people use drugs because they like the way those drugs make them feel. If they didn't like it, if that state wasn't more pleasurable than their state without those drugs, they wouldn't use them. Talking about peer pressure, experimentation or rebellion is entirely secondary to this core biological drive: to avoid pain and seek pleasure.

Now, given these positions, the big argument that voluntary behaviors drop the American health stats, and that therefore we shouldn't pay attention to WHO stats, is just blind. It displays a profound 180-degree difference between the way we see human behavior. I remember a lady I know who had a terrible relationship, smoked, and was obese. And insisted, up down and sideways, that she knew the answers, that people get what they want in life, and that whatever position they are in in life, that's where they intended to go.

She was a textbook case of confusion of conscious and unconscious drives. Textbook. Most of the bad things we do are confusions of these two things, a belief that somehow "we" are in control of ourselves, that our conscious minds are stronger than the millions of years of evolutionary wiring that can spin us in some very bizarre directions indeed. We've done experiment after experiment showing that our CONSCIOUS beliefs about race (Kumbahya!) is very different than our unconscious tribal wiring. To my knowledge, the very best way of combatting racism is to demonstrate to people this incongruence--that pain, in and of itself, affects behavior for the positive.

I see nothing, absolutely nothing in the use of drugs, lack of exercise, stress-related or diet-related problems that do not yield to consciousness, education, aligning the conscious and unconscious mind, becoming more deeply aware of the consequences of our actions on those around us. It seems child's play to me.

What possible effective disagreement with this idea can there be? That those Americans who smoke more than the international average do it because they WANT, really truely want, to die? That would be the only thing that would be unassailable by a proper network of social support, counseling, and education. You KNOW this would have to be my attitude: look at the way I get criticized when I suggest that human bodies do not disobey the laws of physics. Those who have a need for protective shells, or an aversion to exercising their bodies, are both, in my mind, reacting to faulty and conflicted beliefs, buried emotional pain, fear, and culturally promoted ignorance. (And I sure as hell blame commercial industry for selling sugar and crap, claiming it is 'healthy' in the way tobacco companies used to claim cigarettes actually soothed your throat. Right here in America. You want me to trust people who profit by selling me poison? Are you kidding?) And when they do not fear, discovered they've been lied to about how much exercise it takes to change their bodies, and have resolved the emotional conflicts...the weight drops off.

This isn't a magic bullet. It is simply that we have a difficult time adapting human energies to a changing environment.

None of this suggests that there shouldn't be a vigorous debate about the proper role of government. Or fears that government will grow too large. Or the excellent, and heartfelt defence of a cancer-prone family struggling to survive, which has found health care that works--and therefore is concerned about change. God, I feel that one.

But I'm afraid that those who believe our behaviors cannot be positively affected by outside agency are going to have to go on the other side of the line. My side says that the fact that we smoke more, are fatter, and so forth can be attributed to ignorance, fear, lack of clarity, and lack of support. Things that the rest of the industrialized world has decided should be dealt with in the Commons. And those who look at those statistics otherwise...well, again, we have a very serious difference in what we think human beings are, and what we believe the obligations between people to be, and the proper role of government.

And I honestly believe that the core difference lies in questions of What Are We, as individuals, as a culture. What is the future we want? I'll tell you bluntly: basic education and basic health care is part of the commons. There will be private schools and private medical plans for those who wish more, and I would fight against anything outlawing same. That future looks pretty damned good to me. I'm sorry if you don't want to live in my world, I really am.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Reduce Government Beaurocracy!

"Well, the incomprehension is somewhat mutual: you really think that having the entire biomedical sector nationalized by stealth is going to give us better medical care, research into new medical therapies, less rationing, and lower costs? If the UHC side wins, I certainly hope you're right, but....."

No wonder you don't comprehend: you're putting words in my mouth, and they don't fit there. I never said anything about "having the entire biomedical sector nationalized by stealth." Anyway, how many countries with UHC have NO private biomedical sector? Unless the answer is "most", you're simply confusing yourself by assuming the absolute worst conclusion, even if no one wants it.


"False dilemma: the argument is rather that the product of money, fear, curiosity and compassion is greater than the product of fear, curiosity and compassion." I'll buy that. And think that the increased amount of compassion and social safety net will compensate for a little reduction in profit.


Mike, I feel your argument, and your concern for your family is dead on, honorable, and reasonable. I believe that there will certainly be some situations where a change would reduce the quality in specific cases, I also believe that the overall results would be better. But I honestly empathize with you.


Frank: that article is only a rebuttal if I remove my contention that lifestyle issues are benefitted by social safety net. I'm willing to consider that in balance with Erich's idea that future research might suffer for a lack of mega-profit today. It was kinda narrowly directed, in that sense. But in general, I'm on the side of the issue that says these behaviors (overeating, under-exercising, smoking, drugs, etc.) are by-products of ignorance, loneliness, fear, and repressed negative emotion. And that the countries strengthening their social structure are directly contributing to their citizens' health and welfare in ways that go beyond allopathic medicine. I understand if you disagree with this, and I admit to waffling here a bit. But my courtesy to Erich doesn't change what I believe, and I can't let that alone with so many lives at stake. So, please forgive me, but I have to say that everything I know about human beings says that community matters.


Yeah, I think health care might be the most important issue in the U.S.--especially if you don't have it, or have relatives and friends who have died because they didn't.


ᅠMarty S.--yep, Cancer and Heart disease are major factors. And America does pretty well with those, but STILL loses overall. Which implies to me that there is a gigantic black hole of horror in our health care, one that swallows those statistics, and that you are comfortable enough to be able to ignore. Because everyone is afraid of cancer and heart disease, I seriously doubt that suddenly research into those arenas are gonna be slashed. Rich people don't wanna die, and they'll vote with their dollars. Pharma companies will still make profits--but possibly less. Except that their stockholders' money will go further because of things like...wait for it...UHC.


Marty, Frank, and Erich--it's o.k., guys. We get that your minds aren't going to change, and that's all right. On this issue, you're on the other side of the line: you don't believe the WHO results. WE GET THAT. Those of us on this side DO believe those results. It's as simple as that. Work it out among yourselves, guys--no one is trying to change your opinion. The rest of the world is wrong, and you are right. Cool.


Marty--a link between education and life expectancy? Great! Thanks for the suggestion: next up, universal education. And I agree that there are other models beside UHC. I don't think any of them have been as well tested, however. I want a Public Option, designed to be deficit neutral, like letting everyone buy into Medicare for cost plus 10%. THAT would keep the insurance companies honest without a vast and expensive regulatory beaurocracy. The insurance companies would have to police themselves, or become obsolete. I love that idea.


ᅠI guess one of the "that side of the line" questions is: "do you think that UHC would have a positive effect on obesity, drugs, smoking, alcoholism, etc." On the Conservative side are those who basically answer "no." They seem to think, in other words, that there is something intrinsic about Americans that they just...well, they just want to die, I guess. And that social pressures, education, and support would have no positive effect. To me, they are making a statement about what they believe the basic nature of Man to be. Fine...such arguments cannot ultimately be resolved. It is a "essence precedes existence" argument. People on THIS side of the line tend to look at those exact same statistics (other countries live longer than us because their citizens have better habits?) and accept more of the "existence precedes essence" position: that we can change given support, and that the social context of our lives influences our results. Now in truth, I've never met anyone who was 100% one way or the other, but that's the way it seems to shake out politically. Meaning that discussions like this, for the hard-corps, cannot ultimately be resolved because the conversation isn't really about politics, it is about the status of the human soul.

Does anyone think this is unfair of me? I'm not trying to be. In fact, I'm offering an olive branch, suggesting that the disagreements are caused by, in essence, differing views of our spiritual essence, and that when it comes down to it we're just going to have to learn to live together.


I keep hearing an understandable complaint: "so I can't oppose Obama's policies without being racist?" Yes, unfortunately there are some assholes who take that position. And it can't be comfortable being on the end of that. On the other hand, they wouldn't have as much ammunition if it weren't for denial on the Right that racism plays any significant role at all. So you have people on one side in denial that there are very real policy disagreements, and people on the other side denying that a 400% increase in death threats to our first black President is significant. Only if you yourself are awake do you have the right to complain that others are asleep.